Justia Health Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
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The First Circuit affirmed the conclusion of the district court that the Maine Medical Marijuana Act's requirement that officers and directors of medical marijuana dispensaries operating in Maine be Maine residents violates the dormant Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, holding that that Maine residency requirement violates the dormant Commerce Clause.Plaintiffs brought this suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 28 U.S.C. 2201 alleging that the Act's residence requirement violates the dormant Commerce Clause by permitting only in-staters to serve as officers or directors of dispensaries. The district court granted judgment for Plaintiffs. On appeal, Defendants argued that because the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), 21 U.S.C. 801 et seq., makes marijuana contraband, the residency requirement does not run afoul of the dormant Commerce Clause. The First Circuit disagreed, noting that "a congressional exercise of commerce power can never, merely by being in place, displace the dormant Commerce Clause." The Court then affirmed, holding that "nothing on the face of the CSA purports to bless interstate discrimination in the market for medical marijuana that continues to operate even in the face of the CSA." View "Northeast Patients Group v. United Cannabis Patients & Caregivers of Maine" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit dismissed this appeal from the dismissal of a 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit filed by Plaintiffs, two college students, against Defendants, their former universities and university officials, asserting constitutional challenges to the universities' COVID-19 vaccination policies, holding that Plaintiffs' claims are moot.The policies at issue required all students either to be vaccinated or to obtain an exemption to be allowed onto campus. Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief seeking exemptions from the policies. The district court denied relief and granted Defendants' motion to dismiss. The First Circuit dismissed Plaintiffs' ensuing appeal, holding that where one student had graduated and the other student was no longer enrolled, Plaintiffs' claims were moot. View "Harris v. University of Massachusetts, Lowell" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit denied an emergency stay sought by Plaintiffs of a disclosure order in this challenge to the Maine vaccine mandate for healthcare workers as it stood on October 19, 2021, holding that Plaintiffs were not entitled to the stay.For this first ten months of this case Plaintiffs were allowed to proceed under pseudonyms. Upon a motion by intervenor press/media organizations, the district court ordered Plaintiffs to file an amended complaint identifying by name the individual plaintiffs, finding that Plaintiffs did not meet their burden of rebutting the presumption against parties proceeding under pseudonyms. Plaintiffs filed an appeal from the disclosure order and sought an emergency stay of that order until resolution of their appeal on the merits. The First Circuit denied the stay, holding that the public interest and the media intervenors' interests weighed in favor of denying the stay due to the presumption of public access. View "Does v. Mills" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court denying motion for a preliminary injunction sought by Appellants, then-employees of Mass General Brigham, Inc. (MGB), to stop their employer's application of its mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy to them, holding that the district court did not err.In November 2021, Appellants bought this action. The district court denied a preliminary injunction. Appellants then noticed an appeal and also sought emergency injunctive relief from the First Circuit. The First Circuit held that they had not met the requirements for an injunction pending appeal. Now that the merits of Appellants' appeal were before the Court, the First Circuit affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction, holding that the district court correctly denied relief. View "Together Employees v. Mass General Brigham Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendant's motion for compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(1)(A), as amended by the First Step Act (FSA), holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion.Defendant, an inmate, moved for compassionate release pursuant to the compassionate-release statute, arguing that, given his pre-existing medical conditions, his heightened risk of complications stemming from COVID-19 constituted an "extraordinary and compelling" reason warranting a sentence reduction. The district court denied the motion on the papers. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Defendant's arguments on appeal were unavailing. View "United States v. Texeira-Nieves" on Justia Law

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In this vaccination dispute, the First Circuit denied the motion brought by Appellants seeking an injunction pending appeal, holding that Appellants were not entitled to the injunction.Appellants, eight employees of Mass General Brigham, Inc. (MGB), challenged MGB's application of its mandatory vaccination policy to them individually. The policy was issued in June 2021 requiring all MGB employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they qualified for a medical or religious exemption. After Appellants' requests for exemptions were denied and they still refused to get vaccinated, MGB placed them on unpaid leave. Appellants sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, arguing that MGB unlawfully denied their individual exemption requests. The district court denied Appellants' motion for a preliminary injunction, which would have required Appellants' reinstatement from unpaid leave status. The First Circuit denied Appellants' motion for injunction pending appeal, holding that adequate legal remedies foreclosed injunctive relief. View "Together Employees v. Mass General Brigham Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the rulings of the district court denying the Commission of the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaints against her, holding that Plaintiffs' allegations of error were without merit.Plaintiffs were (1) a class of individuals who claimed to have been held against their will without due process on the basis of a certification of their need for emergency mental health treatment, and (2) a group of hospitals who claimed to have been forced to retain persons certified to be in need of such treatment. The Commissioner moved to dismiss the claims based on Eleventh Amendment immunity and Plaintiffs' asserted lack of standing. The district court denied the motion to dismiss. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that there was no merit to the Commissioner's challenges to the district court's standing and Eleventh Amendment immunity rulings. View "Doe v. Shibinette" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Appellants' request for a preliminary injunction to prevent enforcement of a regulation promulgated by Maine's Center for Disease Control requiring all workers in licensed healthcare facilities to be vaccinated against COVID-19, holding that the district court did not err.Under Maine law, a healthcare worker may claim an exemption from the vaccination requirement only if a medical practitioner certifies that vaccination "may be medically inadvisable." Appellants - several Maine healthcare workers and a healthcare provider - brought this action alleging that the vaccination requirement violated their rights under 42 U.S.C. 1985 and the Free Exercise Clause, Supremacy Clause, and Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. The district court denied Appellants' motion for a preliminary injunction. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in concluding that Appellants were unlikely to succeed on the merits of their claims. View "Does v. Mills" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit dismissed this appeal from the district court's denial of Plaintiff's request for injunctive relief, holding that Plaintiff's claims were moot.During the initial stages of COVID-19 vaccine distribution, the State of New Hampshire implemented a plan to allocate its supply. The overall plan earmarked up to ten percent of vaccines to an "equity plan" to reach certain vulnerable individuals. Before he obtained a vaccine appointment, Plaintiff sued to challenge the equity plan, arguing that the plan illegally discriminated on the basis of race. The district court denied Plaintiff's request for a preliminary injunction, and Plaintiff appealed. The First Circuit dismissed the appeal, holding that where Plaintiff no longer had any stake in how New Hampshire allocates its abundant supply of vaccines, his request for a preliminary injunction was moot. View "Pietrangelo v. Sununu" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of this suit challenging Massachusetts Governor Charles Baker's COVID-19 Order No. 43 as unconstitutional, holding that the case was moot.Bit Bar, which owned and ran a restaurant/arcade in the city of Salem, Massachusetts, brought suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, attacking Governor Baker's order, which temporarily closed the trade part of Bit Bar's business, as unconstitutional. The complaint alleged that the Governor's restriction violated Bit Bar's First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Just days after Bit Bar filed suit, Governor Baker entered an order allowing arcades to reopen. The Governor then moved to dismiss the complaint as moot. The district court granted the motion to dismiss. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the case was moot. View "Boston Bit Labs, Inc. v. Baker" on Justia Law